She said I was funny but I didn’t know if she meant funny ha ha or funny peculiar. We spoke for a short while before leaving about nothing in particular. She hooked her arm under mine and asked if I would like to take a walk. The air had a crystalline viscosity after the humid party, a sensation that was pleasurable for the first minute or so and unbearable thereafter.
She lit a smoke, her eyes and jewellery catching the flame. She appeared to be independent from the cold, her bare shoulders and their constellation of freckles untroubled by the winter air. I thought I had seen her with a man at the party but wasn’t sure. I told her I was cold without shame.
We entered a rundown movie house, a dark dingy place that looked semi-deserted. We sat through two nameless and forgotten flicks. The first contained a man who tried to seduce a girl while earning a living as a performing clown (funny ha ha), the second an arty affair concerning drug use amongst GIs in Vietnam (funny peculiar). The place was empty except one other, a scruffy man of indeterminate age who may or may not have been sleeping. She smelled great, existing in a personal cloud of crushed petals.
She took me to her house and we stayed up all night washing dishes. There must have been a party there the previous night, resulting in a whole manner of glasses and crockery strewn around the rooms. She took off her heels (and was surprisingly petite) but otherwise remained in her evening wear. I did not even loosen my tie. She scrubbed and I dried, an inefficient method as I did not know where the clean items belonged and instead stacked everything on the kitchen table, leaving her a second task of putting things away. We spoke while we worked, at great length and with the honesty allowed by complete anonymity. I told her of my boy; going into detail on His favourite foods and toys, memorable days out, Christmases and birthdays past. She alternated between cleaning and smoking. I told her of Beth; how we met and where we married. I went into our honeymoon in Amalfi, our walks in the late evening sunshine. I told her of my job. I described how Beth drifted away, slowly and steadily, and how I didn’t react until it was too late. I told her of my long days working, I told her I had forgotten why. Every so often she would leave for a few minutes and return with armfuls of cut crystal glasses. I recounted the day Beth moved in with Mark and how she had taken Him with her.
She showed me to the door as the sun came up. I stepped outside into the crisp air, my surroundings encased in a bright winter membrane, gold and new. I remembered why I kept going.
Jonathan Edward Doyle is a Zoology graduate currently studying for a master’s degree in Cardiff University, writing fiction in his spare time. He lives in South Wales with friends and his twin brother.